Recreation areas to add 400 acres

Parcel swaps will fill gaps between public lands

Some of the gaps on the map between the Gunnison River and the boundaries of the Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area will be filled in.

Four hundred new acres will be added to the eastern boundaries of Bureau of Land Management-administered areas, in land acquisition deals that took place over the past two years. The transfer of those parcels of land into public ownership was announced Tuesday.

This new land is expected to expand recreation opportunities and help protect habitat for threatened and endangered species.

The land was acquired by Western Rivers Conservancy, an organization that works to protect habitat and ensure public access to river ecosystems in the West, after the BLM came to the group for help “filling in” the gaps around the two BLM areas, according to Sue Doroff, vice president of the Portland, Ore.-based organization.

“These lands had been a priority for the BLM,” she said.

Western Rivers began purchasing portions of this land in 2010. Tuesday, it announced that land was now owned by the public, under the management of the BLM.

“This had been a long time coming,” said Chris Joyce, the spokesman of the BLM’s Grand Junction office.

Some of the parcels had previously been leased for gravel mining, though mining had yet to begin when the lands were acquired.

“It’s not that we’re opposed to gravel mining, but these were in a strategic location for [Bangs Canyon and Dominguez-Escalante],” Doroff said.

As far as expanded recreation opportunities, Joyce said there will be an “extensive evaluation process” with “lots of public input” to determine what would be allowed on the new lands.

“Maybe campsites — who knows?” he said.

“The main objective right now was to get them and keep them in a wild setting, to be able to use them for public use,” he said, explaining the land had been purchased from a company which would have used them for gravel mining or real estate. Those uses were not compatible with the nearby conservation areas, he said.

This was the first deal Western Rivers had worked on in Colorado, but Doroff said “they plan to be a positive presence in Colorado for a good, long time,” calling the state’s rivers “spectacular and precious.”

Joyce said the BLM does not currently have any plans to pursue purchasing additional land abutting the Bangs Canyon or Dominguez-Escalante areas.


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